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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sanhedrin

Folio 15a

If one declares, 'I dedicate the value of this vessel [to the Sanctuary]', its value must be handed over. Why so? Because it is well known1  that there is no fixed assessment [in the Torah] for such objects:2  he must therefore have spoken with reference to value;3  consequently, he must pay its value. But if so, [the words in the Mishnah] VALUATIONS OF MOVABLE OBJECTS should have read VALUATION CAUSED BY MOVABLE OBJECTS?4  — Read: VALUATIONS CAUSED BY MOVABLE OBJECTS.

R. Hisda, quoting Abimi [said]: It refers to one who pledges movable objects in payment of his own dedicated value.5  But in that case the words VALUATIONS OF MOVABLE OBJECTS should have been written MOVABLE OBJECTS OF ASSESSMENT!6  Read: MOVABLE OBJECTS OF ASSESSMENT.

R. Abbahu said: This refers to one who declares, 'I dedicate my value;' when the Priest comes to collect it, [on his failure to pay],7  movable property is assessed by three; immovable property by ten.8

R. Aha of Difti said to Rabina: The requirement of three assessors is correct in the case of one having to redeem anything out of the possession of the Sanctuary;9  but why need three to bring them into its possession?10  — It is common sense, he answered. What is the difference between appropriating a thing to, and expropriating a thing from [the possession of the Sanctuary]? In the case of expropriation, the reason [for three assessors] is the eventuality of error; but the same eventuality exists in the case of appropriation.11

R. JUDAH SAYS etc. R. Papa said to Abaye: On R. Judah's opinion this is right: for that reason 'Priest' is written. But according to the Rabbis,12  [who hold that no priest is required] — what is the purpose of that reference? — The question remained unanswered.

LAND VALUATION NEEDS NINE AND A PRIEST. Said Samuel: Whence is this inferred? — [From the] ten Biblical references to 'Priest' in the chapter [relating to valuation],13  One is needed for the actual law;14  the others are merely exclusions [of non-priests], one following the other. And [according to Talmudic rule,]15  exclusion, following exclusion, implies, not limitation, but extension,16  and so includes [as valid, a valuation made] even by nine non-priests,17  and [only] one priest.

R. Huna, the son of R. Nathan, demurred: Why not say that the ten assessors must consist of five priests and five non-priests?18  The difficulty remained unsolved.

THE VALUATION OF A MAN IS SIMILAR. But is a man an object that can be dedicated?19  — The words refer, said R. Abbahu, to the case of one who says; 'I dedicate my value'; as it has been taught 'If one says, I dedicate my value [to the Sanctuary-]', he is assessed exactly as a slave sold in the market; — and a slave is equated to immovable property.20

R. Abin asked: How many assessors are needed for the valuation of hair that is ready to be shorn? Is it regarded as already shorn, and thus assessed by three,21  or as attached to the body, hence by ten?22  — Come and hear! If one dedicates his slave, no liability to a trespass-offering is incurred in respect of him.23  But R. Simeon b. Gamaliel says: Liability is incurred in respect of his hair. And we know that the point on which they differ is regarding the hair which is ready to be shorn. Infer, therefore, from this [that R. Abin's question is a point of difference among the Rabbis].

Shall we take it that these Tannaim24  differ in the same respect as the Tannaim of the following Mishnah? For we learnt: R. Meir says: There are things that notwithstanding their attachment to the soil are considered as movable property.25  But the Sages disagree with him. In what case? [If A says to B.] 'I handed over to thee ten vines laden with fruit,' and the latter replies, 'They were only five,' R. Meir imposes [an oath on the defendant],26  while the Sages say that an object which is still attached to the soil is subject to the laws of immovable property.27  And R. Jose b. Hanina said: The case in question is one of grapes ready to be gathered: according to the one master,28  they are considered as gathered; according to the other.29  they are not! — No, you might say it is so30  even according to R. Meir. Only there, in the case of grapes, which after ripening deteriorate by remaining ungathered, does R. Meir hold that they are considered as gathered: whereas hair, the longer it is left, the better it is.

CAPITAL CASES, CASES OF CARNAL CONNEXION WITH BEASTS etc. The law is stated categorically, without any distinction whether the connection is between a beast and a man or a beast and a woman. It is right as regards the [requirement of twenty-three] in the case of a woman, as this follows from the verse, Thou shalt slay the woman and the beast.31  But whence is it to be deduced in the case of a man? — It is written, Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.32  If this has no bearing on a case where a man is the active participant,33  we must refer it to one in which he is the passive offender. And it is expressed in the Divine Law as if the man were the active sinner, for the purpose of equating the passive sinner to him. Just as in the case where the man approaches the beast, both he and the beast are judged by [a court of] twenty-three; so also, where the man is approached by the beast, both he and the beast are judged by twenty-three.

THE CASE OF AN OX TO BE STONED IS BY TWENTY-THREE, AS IT IS WRITTEN: THE OX SHALL BE STONED AND ITS OWNER ALSO SHALL BE PUT TO DEATH.34  AS THE DEATH OF THE OWNER [IS BY TWENTY-THREE], SO THE DEATH OF THE OX. Abaye said to Raba: Whence do we know that the verse, and its owner also shall be put to death, means to [teach that] the judgment of the ox is to be similar to that of the owner?

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'a man knows'.
  2. In the Bible, the word [H] ('erek) is used only in reference to men, and indicates a dedication of fixed sums varying according to the age and sex of the person who is the subject of such a dedication. Hence, strictly speaking, the word is meaningless when used in reference to utensils, and therefore a different meaning has to be given to it here.
  3. For, according to the Talmudic dictum, 'No man makes a purposeless declaration.' Cf. 'Ar. 5a.
  4. The difficulty is a grammatical one. [H] is the absolute form, and therefore [H] really means, 'valuations which are movable' the article [H] being here a relative pronoun. The Talmud answers that the genitive particle [H] is to be understood.
  5. Which, until their value is redeemed, are subject to the laws of sacred property, the assessment of which requires three. This interpretation is to justify the grammatical form used in the Mishnah, the meaning of the phrase being VALUATIONS (of human beings) which have been tendered in the form of MOVABLE OBJECTS.
  6. I.e., movable objects offered as the redemption price of human dedications.
  7. In case of non-payment his property is seized. V. 'Ar. 21a.
  8. The Mishnah therefore is to be interpreted thus: As for [H] (human dedications), if movable property be rendered in redemption thereof, it is assessed by three; if real estate, by ten.
  9. As in the cases quoted by R. Giddal and R. Hisda.
  10. As in the case advanced by R. Abbahu.
  11. Hence the need of assessors in either case.
  12. The representatives of the first opinion cited anonymously.
  13. Lev. XXVII v. p. 69, n. 6.
  14. I.e., to state that a priest must be the assessor.
  15. Which is based on the following inference: For excluding purposes, one reference to 'priest' would have been sufficient; hence its repetition is not intended to exclude non-priests, but to extend. V. R. Han. a.l.
  16. In this case the extension to non-priests of the authority to make assessments.
  17. Lit., 'Israelites'. There were three classes in Israel, viz., 'Priests', 'Levites' and 'Israelites'.
  18. Since the rule that 'exclusion following exclusion implies extension' is based on redundancy, where there are a whole series of such exclusions, they are not all redundant. Thus, the first 'priest' teaching the exclusion of an Israelite, the second is redundant, and therefore teaches his inclusion. Hence, when the word has been written twice, we know that one priest and one Israelite are necessary. But for that very reason, the third 'priest' is not redundant, but to intimate that a priest is again required; after which the fourth is redundant, and so on; thus the first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth are needed for the actual law of priests and the others are superfluous, which gives five priests and five Israelites.
  19. So that he may be classed with sacred property.
  20. V. Meg. 23b. This is derived from the verse, And ye may make them an inheritance to your children after you, to hold for a possession. Lev. XXV, 46. Hence the need of ten assessors.
  21. Like movable property.
  22. Like immovable property.
  23. So, if one puts him to service, as is the case when one makes use of any other consecrated object; for the laws concerning the unlawful use of sacred property are not applicable to lands or things of similar status, as slaves. v. Me'i. 18b.
  24. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel and the first Tanna of the Baraitha.
  25. Lit., 'there are things which are as real estate (being attached to the soil) yet are not as real estate (in a legal sense).'
  26. As in a case where there is partial admission of the claim (cf. B.K. 107a) and though an oath is not administered in cases of immovable property (v. Shebu, VI, 5). Here, however, since the vines no longer depend on the soil for ripening, they are considered as gathered.
  27. Hence no oath can be administered.
  28. R. Meir.
  29. The Rabbis.
  30. I.e., that hair, even though ready for cutting, is to be considered as immovable property, because the cases are not alike.
  31. Lev. XX, 16, which indicates that the judgment on the ox is similar to that on the woman, and therefore the verdict must be pronounced by a similar body.
  32. Ex. XXII, 18.
  33. Since the reference in Lev. XX, 15, And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death, suffices.
  34. Ex. XXI, 29.

Sanhedrin 15b

Perhaps it is meant to [indicate] capital punishment [for the owner]? — In that case it should have been written, and the owner also, and no more. But [perhaps] had the Divine Law written so,1  it could be argued that [the text implies death] by stoning?2  — Could this view possibly be entertained! If a man himself is the murderer, his death is by the sword:3  when his property [sc. an ox] slays, shall he [the owner] be stoned!4

But might it not be argued5  that the reason the Divine Law wrote 'yumath'6  is to [indicate] an easier death, i.e., to commute death by the sword to death by strangulation?7  Now, on the view that strangulation is a severer death,8  it is correct;9  but according to the view that strangulation is an easier death [than decapitation],10  what is there to be said [against it]?11  — This cannot be entertained, because it is written, If there be laid on him a ransom;12  and, should you maintain that he is liable to death, is it not written, You shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer?13  On the contrary, that fact [proves that the text is literal, Thus:] in case of a man's own crime, money is no adequate punishment, only death; whereas, when his beast kills, he can ransom himself with money?14  — But, said Hezekiah, and thus said a Tanna of the school of Hezekiah: Scripture state, He that smote him [a human being] shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer.15  For a murder committed by himself, you may put him to death, but you may not put him to death for a murder committed by his ox.16

The schoolmen asked: How many were needed [to judge] the ox [that sinned in approaching] Mount Sinai?17  [The question is] whether we can derive a temporary enactment from permanent practice or not? — Come and hear! Rammi b. Ezekiel taught, Whether it be beast or man, it shall not live;18  just as a man is judged by twenty-three, so is a beast judged by twenty-three.

THE LION AND THE WOLF etc. … Resh Lakish said: Provided, however, that they killed [a human being], but not otherwise.19  Thus he holds that they can be tamed and have owners.20  R. Johanan says [that it is R. Eliezer's view] even when they have killed no one. Hence he holds that they cannot be tamed or have owners.21

We learnt: R. ELIEZER SAYS, WHOEVER IS FIRST TO KILL THEM [WITHOUT TRIAL], ACQUIRES. This is correct according to R. Johanan:22  What does he acquire? — He acquires [the possession of] their skin. But according to Resh Lakish, what does he acquire? As soon as they killed someone, the Rabbis regarded them as sentenced [to death], in which case every benefit from them is prohibited!23  What then does he acquire? — He acquires [merit] in the sight of Heaven.

There is [a Baraitha] taught which is in agreement with Resh Lakish: It is all one whether it be an ox, or any other beast or animal that killed a man, [it is judged] by twenty-three. R. Eliezer says: Only an ox that killed [is tried] by twenty-three, but any other animal or beast who killed, whoever is first to kill them acquires merit in the sight of Heaven.24

R. AKIBA SAID etc. Is not R. Akiba's opinion identical with that of the first Tanna [of the Mishnah]?25  — [No;] they differ in the case of a serpent.26

A WHOLE TRIBE MUST NOT BE JUDGED etc. What sin was committed by the tribe? Shall I say, that it is a case of a tribe that desecrated the Sabbath? But27  if the Divine Law made a distinction between individual sinners and a multitude, it was only in cases of idolatry; did it then differentiate in cases [of the transgression] of other commandments? — It must therefore refer to a tribe that was beguiled [into idolatry]. Is it to imply that it must be tried like a multitude? [If so,] this coincides with the opinion of neither R. Josiah nor R. Jonathan. For it has been taught: How many inhabitants must a town have that it may be proclaimed condemned? Not less than ten and not more than a hundred:28  this is the view of R. Josiah. R. Jonathan says: From a hundred to the majority of the tribe in question. And even R. Jonathan admits only the majority of a tribe, but not the whole of it.29  The case in question, says R. Mathna, is one

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Without the word yumath, [H] ('he shall be put to death').
  2. I.e., that the same death should be meted out to both man and ox.
  3. V. infra 52a.
  4. A severer death. Surely not!
  5. In support of the literal interpretation.
  6. Which is apparently superfluous.
  7. For by an unspecified death, strangulation is meant (infra 52b).
  8. As held by R. Simeon, cf. infra 49b.
  9. For it would appear illogical to punish the owner more severely than in the case of his own act.
  10. As held by the Rabbis, ibid.
  11. Sc. the argument in support of the literal interpretation of 'yumath'.
  12. Ex. XXI, 30.
  13. Num. XXXV, 31; and surely, if he is to be executed, he is considered as such.
  14. And where there is no offer of a ransom he is to be put to death. And the question — 'perhaps the verse means to indicate capital punishment for the owner' — remains.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Deduced from the words, 'he is a murderer', which appear superfluous.
  17. Cf. Ex. XIX, 13. Approach was forbidden to man and beast on pain of death.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Only then does R. Eliezer maintain that the sooner they are killed the better.
  20. I.e., their owners acquire legal title to them. For otherwise, it would be natural to assume that R. Eliezer meant that they should always be slain as potential mankillers.
  21. And even if a person does breed them, he acquires no legal title thereto, and anyone is at liberty to kill them.
  22. In whose opinion there is no ownership. Moreover, since they are slain even before they have killed a human being, they are not treated as animals sentenced to death, all benefit from which is prohibited.
  23. V. B.K. 41b.
  24. Tosef. Sanh. III.
  25. Why then state his view as though he differed with the first Tanna?
  26. Which, according to R. Akiba, can be killed even without trial.
  27. Lit., 'Say'.
  28. Only a town, referred to as 'ir (v. Deut. XIII, 14) can be condemned. R. Josiah holds that a community of less than ten is a village (kefar) and one of more than a hundred is an entire community, of which the 'city' is only a part.
  29. For in the case of a whole tribe, the members are to be tried individually as when an entire community, as distinct from a town, practises idolatry (v. preceding note).